Newby: Prevalence of drug-overdose calls for attention and action

The prevalence of drug-addiction and abuse among college students is astounding, and prevention must be taken in order to protect people from the devastation of overdose.




Taylor Newby, Opinions Columnist

With finals week in full swing, students begin to lean heavily on study drugs to deliver them through exams. And with college-age students making up one of the largest national groups that abuse drugs, addressing the prevalent problem is imperative in order to implement change through prevention.

In this last year, record-breaking death caused by drug overdoses overwhelmed homes, families, and lives. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 72,000 Americans died from overdose in 2017. Of that number, there were 99 overdose deaths and 202 drug-related deaths in Iowa.

The statistics are astounding — and what is even more profound is the group of people who make up one of the largest populations of drug-users. Research has revealed that people between the ages of 18 and 24 are not only among the largest population of people using drugs, they are also at a heightened risk of addiction to begin with.

According to the Addiction Center, “Those who are enrolled in a full-time college program are twice as likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than those who don’t attend college.”

In asking 25 Iowa college-students whether they have used study drugs during finals week, I found that 72 percent of them had. And of those who had used study drugs, 63 percent had used them more than once.

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A 21-year-old said her intention in using Adderall was to help her stay up and study during finals week. But in using Adderall, she found just how detrimental is was to her mental health.

“When I was at my serving job [a fast-paced environment], I found myself pacing and fidgeting,” she said. “I couldn’t even stand in one place. That’s when I know it was an issue.”

And where the problem of drug use among college students can appear to only pertain to weeks in which final exams and writing assignments are coming in waves, addiction and abuse appear far more frequently with more critical consequences.

Recently, the New York Times reported a study revealing that the problem of the overdose epidemic has increased in such large volumes that it has contributed to the reduction in an American’s life expectancy in the last three years.

And yet, to ground these growing numbers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data offer the notion that the overdose epidemic leveled out in these earlier months, and with that, perhaps the overdose epidemic has also reached its potential peak.

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Paralleling the leveling of overdose death rates and combating the rapid rise of addiction, there has been an increase in the effort to reach people who battle drug-addiction and drug-abuse. With the intention of limiting the number of lives lost to drug overdoses, policies and bills have been put in place to protect people and prevent any further harm.

In Iowa, near the beginning of the year, House File 2377 was made law to limit the distribution of prescriptions for addictive drugs that have been dished out in the past.

With that, House File 2377 ensures the safety of people seeking treatment for drug-related issues for themselves or on behalf of others. The bill protects them from the prosecution or arrest because of drug-related circumstances. 

While the overdose epidemic overwhelms the American population, officials implementing policies to protect people and prevent an increase in the number of lives lost because of drug-abuse, with the hope of helping those who are hurting, should continue to be exemplified in other areas in the country.

If you or someone you know is battling addiction, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Call the free 24-hour Drug Abuse Hotline at 855-705-5606.